Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

DisabilityCare Australia

Program: Mornings with Geoff Hutchison

E & OE – Proof only

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Jenny Macklin carries the federal responsibility for DisabilityCare and she joins me in the studio this morning. Good morning to you.

JENNY MACKLIN: Glad to be here.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: You will I imagine make another public utterance urging Colin Barnett to sign up to DisabilityCare. Are there conversations being had to try and bring you closer to an agreement?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ll say it right here this morning, I’d say to the Premier of Western Australia, now’s the time to sign up to DisabilityCare Australia in the interests of people with disability here in Western Australia. If Mr Barnett would sign up to DisabilityCare as every other leader in Australia has, we would double the number of people here in Western Australia with significant and permanent disabilities who would get access to care and support. Care and support they currently don’t have, and people with disability here in Western Australia would get access to around $1 billion extra money to provide that urgently needed care and support. So that’s what Western Australians with a disability are currently missing out on.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Can I put some concerns Mr Barnett has uttered on this program a few times. He tells us continually that a Canberra-based bureaucracy cannot deliver customised care.

JENNY MACKLIN: And this of course is a completely false assertion. As you indicated in your introduction we’ve now started DisabilityCare. We don’t call them trial sites, this is actually the start, the first stage of DisabilityCare. I opened the office for DisabilityCare in Launceston last week. We’ve got two offices in Adelaide, we’ve got one in Geelong, one in Devonport, one in Hobart, one in Newcastle and the headquarters for DisabilityCare is actually going to be in Geelong. So that just put paid to that view. And of course if Western Australia would sign up there would be local regional offices here in Western Australia. We understand how important it is that people with disability have access to local area coordinators. This actually is a Western Australian idea. We’ve acknowledged that and adapted it as part of DisabilityCare right across the country.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Well you’ll know Mr Barnett talks about the kind of disability assistance available in Western Australia, arguing that it is superior to other states. He talks of the need for greater flexibility and again a more decentralised model. Can DisabilityCare work within the existing framework in Western Australia?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the point I’ve just made at the start is we want to dramatically expand the way in which people get access to care and support. So this is already happening in the first stages of DisabilityCare in those States that have signed up. So if I can give you an example…

GEOFF HUTCHISON: …please do.

JENNY MACKLIN: …of a person I met in Geelong just last week. She’s an older mother. This is a very typical story that I’m sure you’ve heard many times of older parents who are still caring for their adult sons or daughters at home. The parents are desperately anxious about what will happen when they pass away, who will look after their son or daughter. This mother in the first week of DisabilityCare in Geelong had already had her care plan for her son approved. Her son had found a supported accommodation place and it was able to be delivered because DisabilityCare will now provide the care that her son needs. And up until last week the state of Victoria did not have the money to pay for that care support. The same applies here in Western Australia. You’ve got thousands of ageing carers who want to know that their children or their adult children, are going to be looked after and have a supported accommodation home, a place to call home, with care and support. The money for that is only going to come from DisabilityCare.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and has taken responsibility for all that DisabilityCare represents. It’s ten minutes past nine. Again going back to comments of Colin Barnett, and these are all pointed comments, some people will receive less funding and support over DisabilityCare than they currently receive. Yes or no?

JENNY MACKLIN: No. It is categorically false. And the reason I can say that to you so clearly is we have agreements with each of the other states and territories because of course people are worried about this. They want to know that until DisabilityCare is fully rolled out they will continue to get at least what they have now. It might not be perfect but it’s better than nothing. And so we have agreements with each of the states and territories that current levels of support will continue until DisabilityCare provides the extra care and support that’s so demonstrably needed, and will be provided as a result of the introduction of this huge reform.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: And when the Premier says, we probably will, and that has been repeated again and again by the Premier and Helen Morton, we probably will sign up, but he says, what’s the rush? And there are some, there are some disability advocates in Western Australia who are saying we should take our time.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the rush is that there are people with disability who are currently missing out on care and support that they would otherwise receive. And people should not have to continue to provide, continue to put the sort of pressure that is put on ageing carers, for example. Or other examples that you hear of people not getting enough personal care. So they don’t get showered regularly enough, they have to wait years to get a wheelchair instead of getting it when they need to, families not being able to get the respite support that they need just so they can continue their caring role for their son or daughter.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: So is your argument these people have waited long enough…

JENNY MACKLIN: …exactly.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: They need to have that opportunity now?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right. Western Australia could have been in at the start. They missed that opportunity because they wouldn’t sign up. We had four jurisdictions agree to sign up to the first stage. We’ve got the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory coming in next year, and of course the other States will join, Queensland will come into the full scheme, they’ll start transitioning in a couple of years time. So every other state understands that this is urgently needed for people with disability and carers.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Now I understand Jenny Macklin you’ve only got a few moments, but I’ll just ask you to pop your headphones on because Peter has a question and it’s a question that you will have heard I’m sure from right across the country at different times. Peter good morning.

PETER: Good morning.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: What’s your question to the Minister?

PETER: Well I just wonder, it seems to me that when I read what’s going on, that people who have become disabled over 65 don’t seem to be accessing this scheme, is that correct and why?

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks Peter. This has been a very difficult issue for us to determine and the place we’ve landed at is where the Productivity Commission recommended, which is that DisabilityCare should be there for people under the age of 65 and that if people need care and support over the age of 65 that that should be provided through either the health system in rehabilitation or in the aged care system. If people acquire a disability before they’re 65 and then they would like to stay in the DisabilityCare system, so if they’d like to stay in the place they’re living and getting the care and support through DisabilityCare Australia, then we have agreed that that will be able to happen and that’s been agreed with each of the states and territories, except WA.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: But taking Peter’s point, did the Productivity Commission, even if they perhaps did not choose these words, to say that it becomes very cost prohibitive over the age of 65, and then I can hear our listeners over that age saying, what kind of age discrimination is this?

JENNY MACKLIN: Of course you’ve got to also recognise that DisabilityCare is not taking the place of every other system, so it’s about providing care and support for people with a disability. The aged care system is there now providing support for people as they age and a lot of that support is around personal care, support in the home, and so on. But you’re right, the issue that the Productivity Commission raised was around making sure that DisabilityCare is financially sustainable, and people with disability certainly want to make sure that this huge area where there’s a massive unmet need, and I don’t think it matters where you are in Australia, that is true, and I’m not making a political statement, it’s true of all previous governments, that we’ve let people with disability down. So we are determined to fix that, that’s what we’re doing.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Last question is just like the first question really. You made your public utterance to Colin Barnett to come to the table. Beyond that, are there conversations going at the level of health bureaucrats or whomever is responsible…


GEOFF HUTCHISON: …to try and make it work?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, there are. And they of course will continue because we want to see West Australians get the benefit of DisabilityCare and we’ll continue to talk. But you asked me a direct question, I’ve answered it very directly, we want Western Australia in as part of DisabilityCare Australia so that people with disability and their carers here in WA get the benefit of DisabilityCare.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: I appreciate you coming in this morning. Thank you very much.